Today marks the 80th anniversary of the most deceptive speech in American political history. Nothing else comes close. Of all the flip-flops in American political history, this was the premier flip. The flop was his inaugural address on March 4, 1933.
The setting was an industrial city where unemployment was astronomical. The steel town of the world was effectively shuttered. There was little demand for American steel in 1932. Industrial production had collapsed.
It was less than two weeks before the national election. Everyone knew that this was the most momentous election since 1860. The stakes were high: control over the national government in the middle of the worst depression in world history. Yet no widely read commentator at the time gave any indication of just how high these political stakes were. The federal government in 1932 was not the center of gravity economically that it became over the next four years, let alone four decades.
Walter Lippman, the premier political columnist of the day — a very long day, from 1913 until his death in 1974 — infamously wrote in 1932, “Franklin Roosevelt is no crusader. He is no tribune of the people. He is no enemy of entrenched privilege. He is a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for office, would very much like to be President.”
How could Lippmann have believed this? From the evidence available in 1932. In his years out of politics, beginning in 1921 after his failed attempt to be elected Vice President in 1921, until his election as Governor of New York, FDR was a corporate bond salesman. This is rarely mentioned and never discussed by his biographers. Only one scholar has told the story in detail, Antony Sutton, in Wall Street and FDR (1975). That book went down the memory hole in both conservative and liberal academia, as did all of his books. Sutton began his book with this observation.
This book portrays Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a Wall Street financier who, during his first term as President of the United States, reflected the objectives of financial elements concentrated in the New York business establishment. Given the long historical association — since the late 18th century — of the Roosevelt and Delano families with New York finance and FDR’s own career from 1921 to 1928 as banker and speculator at 120 Broadway and 55 Liberty Street, such a theme should not come as a surprise to the reader. On the other hand, FDR biographers Schlesinger, Davis, Freidel, and otherwise accurate Roosevelt commentators appear to avoid penetrating very far into the recorded and documented links between New York bankers and FDR. (http://bit.ly/SuttonFDR)
The Pittsburgh speech was part of a grand deception — a deception that is unparalleled in modern history. FDR had three major stages in this deception: (1) as a lifetime Wall Street agent, (2) as the “voice of the common man” in a truly revolutionary take-over of the American government, and (3) as an agent of the British empire who in fact self-consciously destroyed that empire, 1941-45. You are not told this story in any biography of FDR. It is the supreme mark of the failure of the American conservative movement that there is not a single volume that tells this story. FDR remains the textbooks’ man of the twentieth century, rivaled only by Winston Churchill, that other master of career flip-flops and hidden financing.
The 1932 election was crucial. Sutton shows why in his book. “So we shall find it not surprising that the Wall Street groups that supported Al Smith and Herbert Hoover, both with strong ties to the financial community, also supported Franklin D. Roosevelt. In fact, at the political crossroads in 1932, when the choice was between Herbert Hoover and FDR, Wall Street chose Roosevelt and dropped Hoover.”
This is not the textbook version of the New Deal.
Neither is his 1932 speech in Pittsburgh.
HOOVER AS THE ULTIMATE SPENDTHRIFT
He began his speech with an attack on what he called “the gospel of fear” and “panic breeders.”
This policy of seeking to win by fear of ruin is selfish in its motive, brutal in its method and false in its promise. It is a policy that will be resented as such by men and women of all parties in every section of the country on November eighth.
The Republicans had campaigned in 1928 on the slogan “the full dinner pail.” (That sounds truly archaic today.) Well, he said, the dinner pail is empty today, and the threat is that this will continue.
He promised good relations from now on. No more mean rhetoric.
What is the normal and sensible thing to do when your neighbor gets all excited and starts calling you and your family bad names over the back fence? I take it that nothing is gained by your calling your neighbor worse names or by losing your own temper. As a matter of fact, the peace of the community is best served by sitting down and quietly discussing the problems without raising one’s voice. That is why I decline to answer vituperation merely by more vituperation.
This sounded so reasonable. It sounded so conciliatory. It did not sound like a man who, five months later, would cry out against the bankers as money-changers in the temple.
Then he warned his listeners about what was to come.
Sometime, somewhere in this campaign, I have to talk about dollars and cents. It is a terrible thing to ask you people to listen for forty-five minutes to the story of the Federal budget, but I am going to ask you to do it; and I am going to talk to you about “dollars and cents” in terms that I think not only public accountants, but everybody else can understand.
He said he would discuss the problem facing American families, “the problem of making both ends meet.” He then told them that he would tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. “I want to discuss this problem with you tonight. To do so sincerely I must tell the facts as they are and conceal nothing from you.” He assured them that they had nothing to fear. “It is not a pretty picture, but if we know that picture and face it we have nothing to fear.” Why not? Because political salvation was imminent. Leadership was at hand. An election was coming.
(To read the rest of the speech, where he promised to cut government spending, click the link.)